Local people heartened by visit of Pope Francis
The long day and the hours standing in line were minor inconveniences for the experience of a lifetime. Sunday two charter busloads of pilgrims departed from St. Andrew’s Church in Waynesboro for the Papal Mass by Pope Francis in Philadelphia. It was the culminating event of his first visit to the United States.
Lucy and Paul Schemel had five of their six children at the church by 5 a.m. Because their seats were reserved in two batches, the family was split onto both buses. That was fine with them. It was the day itself that mattered.
Lucy packed food, outerwear, a couple lawn chairs, and had SEPTA rail passes in hand for the trip from the Philadelphia stadium complex to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway area, where the 4 p.m. mass would be held. They wanted their kids to be part of the historical event.
“The Pope is our spiritual leader,” she said. “He’s the face and voice of Jesus Christ on earth.”
She expected the day to be one of patiently waiting.
Jim and Sara Woolf, Chambersburg, brought four of their five children.
“We want them to feel the energy of the crowd, see the Pope, and be with people who share their faith,” said Sara.
She was bus captain for about 50 charges.
“I actually had a little stress over it,” she admitted. “First that everyone gets on the bus, then to make sure they all get back.”
Nine of the riders were family and friends from Abbottstown, so they drove an hour to get to the departure point. Araceli Garcia had seen Pope John Paul II in Mexico when she was a student. Now she was excited to see the current Catholic leader as an adult.
For Maria Hernandez, “It’s a unique opportunity to stay close to the person who represents Jesus on earth.”
City of Brotherly Love
Upwards of one million pious Catholics and others descended upon Philadelphia over the weekend, some also attending the Festival of Families on Saturday. The streets were lined with banners; vendors selling t-shirts, buttons and flags; food stands; official merchandise tents; rows of portable toilets; and trash bags stacked high as clean-up crews made their rounds. Volunteers in orange shirts answered questions and directed pedestrians. People waited in line up to several hours to pass through security screening, conducted by TSA agents.
Police patrolled heavily, on foot, bicycle, motorcyle, and in other motorized vehicles. Their badges read FBI, Secret Service, NYPD Counterterrorism, Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, National Guard, and departments from many municipalities.
The crowds waited patiently along the parkway. They viewed preliminary events occurring on the papal stage near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, by way of jumbotrons placed throughout the downtown and secured areas.
Arthur Gibson, 18, spent the whole weekend in the city. He and his family stayed at a convent where his aunt was a nun. They saw the Pope up close in the Saturday motorized procession. On Sunday the group was admitted into the ticketed area, closer to the main stage. They still watched the mass on a jumbotron due to trees in the way.
Prior to leading the worship service Sunday, Pope Francis made his traditional ride through the streets in the open air popemobile. The assemblies cheered.
For Grace Swofford, 12, her favorite part of the day was “seeing him in his little car.”
The local visitors found the atmosphere joyous and polite.
“All the workers were in great moods,” said Darlene Signore.
Even as she spent two hours in line for the return trip on SEPTA, the folks around her were happy, and did not complain.
“It was fun in a funny way,” she said.
The message she received from the Pope’s homily was that everyone should show peace and love to all, especially the poor. The eucharist portion of the service was meaningful, as well, a way for everyone to celebrate their Christianity.
Anna Swofford, Waynesboro, appreciated the public communal ceremony, too. It was part of the bigger picture.
“While it’s great Pope Francis is here, Christ is the one we are all here for.”
Gibson appreciated the Pontiff’s message, that it all started in the home; family life kept the faith alive. He was also shocked that priests came to his area to administer communion.
“It was a great and wonderful surprise, a huge blessing. Words can’t describe it,” he said.
Dan Signore’s most relevant experience was sharing the Eucharist with the Pope, the formal leader of the church. He also encountered several people telling the crowd to turn away from the Catholic church.
“The papal event was totally loving,” he said. “I actually got teary-eyed a couple of times. All I felt from those other individuals was hate, despite their ‘good intentions’.”
The travelers trickled back to the buses for nearly three hours. They arrived in Waynesboro at midnight.
Tommy Schemel, 9, had a standout good memory of the day. “The bus ride.”